Thomas Tuchel claimed his Chelsea side are barely hanging on during the festive period, and suggested the Premier League should re-think one of their rulings.
Chelsea returned to winning ways in the league with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Aston Villa. Despite Steven Gerrard missing the contest while self-isolating, Villa took the lead through a bizarre Reece James own goal.
Chelsea hit back almost immediately after Jorginho fired home from the spot. But with the first-half a meandering affair with relatively little goalmouth action, Tuchel sprang into action at the break.
The Blues boss introduced Romelu Lukaku to proceedings in place of Trevoh Chalobah. Lukaku provided an impetus Chelsea had been lacking in the final third and quickly got his name on the scoresheet just 10 minutes later.
His impact did not finish there, however, when Lukaku proved too quick and too strong for Villa’s defence when winning an injury time penalty. The automatic Jorginho once again converted from 12 yards.
Speaking to the BBC after the match, Tuchel didn’t hold back regarding the strain his players are currently being put under. In doing so, he suggested it is ludcirous that the Premier League have not re-instated the five substitutions rule.
“We showed a very good reaction after their goal,” said Tuchel.
“The own goal made things super complicated. The reaction was very good. We defended strong and did not allow big chances. It was a deserved win but hard work.
Injuries, Covid absences spark Tuchel rant
“We have concerns for injured players. We let Callum Hudson-Odoi play 90 minutes after Covid. Thiago Silva got injured. N’Golo Kante is injured. Mateo Kovacic is playing after injury and Covid without any preparation and training.
“We’re just filling holes where we can fill them. We play teams without international duties. Five changes were invented because of Covid. Now we’re in the middle of Covid and some teams are having games postponed and others aren’t. Three changes is a big disadvantage.”
When asked if he thinks five subs should be allowed, and if he thinks a change will be made, Tuchel scoffed: “Of course, zero chance.
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“We are the only league who play in winter which I love but we’re not protecting the players. All other leagues have five changes.
“Then we compete against them in the Champions League. It’s a bit frustrating. It will not stop.
“Brighton will play a super physical game then we have two games against Spurs, who are out of Europe and fully focused on the league and Carabao Cup.”
Regarding Lukaku continuing his superb record against Aston Villa, Tuchel added admitted: “No, I was not aware of [Lukaku’s excellent] record against Villa. I should have known this before.
📊 Romelu Lukaku – last 7 PL apps v Aston Villa
Oct 2013 ⚽️
Oct 2014 ⚽️
May 2015 ⚽️
Nov 2015 ⚽️⚽️
Mar 2016 ⚽️
Sept 2021 ⚽️⚽️
Dec 2021 ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/bvBgiw5GVI
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) December 26, 2021
“We decided at half-time to have a bit more threat and create more problems. I was happy he was involved. He was the game changer today.
“We took a lot of risks – 45 minutes was more than the medical department recommended. Who knows if it’s the right thing to do.”
“We are the hunters now” – Lukaku
Man of the match Lukaku also spoke to Sky Sports, saying: “I needed a performance like this today. It’s been difficult getting to the end of games. I kept working hard. I’m happy with my performance and have to push on.”
On the clever movement for his goal, Lukaku added: “I try to be less static and on the move all the time. It was a brilliant cross.
“My preferred action is running into space, using my speed and my power.”
When asked if this result ensured it remains a three-horse race for the title, Lukaku said: “We are the hunters now.
“The last results were not the best and now we have to chase. We have to treat every game like a final. Today we won and now we have to push on.
“We had to win the game. Credit to Steven Gerrard and his staff. It was not easy for us. Our quality came through.”